While many Web sites, chat rooms, bulletin boards and pen pal services are worthwhile and safe, it is important to evaluate risks and take precautions. In other words, be careful! People aren't always who they seem to be in cyberspace.
The FTC offers the following safety tips:
Never give out your last or family name, home address, phone number, credit card number or social security number in chat rooms, on bulletin boards or to online pen pals.
Donít tell others your screen name, user ID or password.
E-mail is relatively private, but not completely. Don't put anything into an electronic message that you wouldn't want to see posted on a neighborhood bulletin board.
Be aware that when you enter a chat room, others can know you are there and can even e-mail you once you start chatting. To remain anonymous, you may want to use a nickname for your screen name.
Check your online service for ways to reduce unsolicited commercial e-mail. Learn to recognize junk e-mail, and delete it. Don't even read it first. Never download an e-mail attachment from an unknown source. Opening a file could expose your system to a virus.
If a site makes you uncomfortable or asks for more information than you want to share, leave the site.
Especially for Kids
Surf the Internet with a parent or teacher. If they arenít available, talk to them about the sites youíre visiting.
If a site has information that you or your parents donít want it to have, your parents can ask to see the information and ask the site to delete or erase it.
Sites must get your parentís permission before they collect many kinds of information from you.
Sites are not supposed to collect more information than they need about you for the activity you want to participate in. You should be able to participate in many activities online without having to give any information about yourself.
As of April 22, 2000, the Federal Trade Commission's Children's Online Privacy Protection Act requires sites to obtain verifiable (written) parental consent in order for children under 13 in the United States to use pen pal, chat or message board technology.
Find additional tips at the following sites:
FTC Kidz Privacy
Designed for kids, this Federal Trade Commission sites offers tips on playing it safe and protecting your privacy.